At the end of every concert, Essence always sings the same song: Anticipation. The lyrics of the song are fascinating, focusing on an uplifting view of death. But more so than the lyrics, it is what we do during the song that makes it special. We leave the stage and walk throughout the audience, shaking hands with everyone and exchanging smiles.
It is a completely surreal experience every single time, and it is what I remember most about each performance. More often than not, about a quarter of the audience is uncontrollable crying, and the older men and women go for a hug instead of a handshake when I stretch out my hand. A connection occurs in these moments, but Dr. Leach (our director) has a different word for it: encounter.
He labels this last song as the culmination of our encounter with the audience. Dr. Leach often says that we only have one chance with this audience, and that it is our task to bring them to another place of being, beyond the pew or seat that they are sitting in.
I realized in writing this post, that I sound like a devoutly religious person, but the truth is that I am not. The emotions that we share in this choir are experienced by both the choir members and the audience, and they are not strictly Christian emotions. Yes, the lyrics reflect Christian teachings, but the uplifting nature of the song and the humbling opportunity to share it has nothing to do with religion, but have everything to do with faith, optimism, and hope.
This is a recording of Essence singing Anticipation:
Can’t wait to see him, look upon his face. Bow down before him, thank him for his grace. Shake hands with the Elders, the 20 and the 4. Say hello to my loved ones, who’ve gone on before.
Jesus is preparing a place just for me. If you want to see me, in heaven I will be. Time will be my friend, day will never end. Summer, Winter, Spring, or Fall won’t have to come at all.
Hope to see you there, where all the Saints will be. Come and go with me.